Bible v. Myth

Considering the roots of contemporary “new nationalism,” David Goldman contrasts the biblical roots of Anglo-American nationalism with the mythical roots of German nationalism.

He suggests that Christianity faces a “conundrum,” since, unlike Judaism, its spiritual and ethnic origins are not identical: Christianity “sees its spiritual origin at Golgotha but its ethnic origin in the impenetrable mists of the distant past. To be a whole person, the Christian must find a way to reconcile these two demarcations of memory.”

As Goldman says, “One solution is to embrace myth, which is what German Romantics set out to do: “In his 1799 essay ‘Christianity or Europe,’ Novalis proposed a return to the Christianity of the early Middle Ages, but a Christianity that would ennoble the tales (Märchen) of the past. The disenchanted world which Schiller bemoaned in his poem ‘The Gods of Greece’ would thus become reenchanted (wiederverzaubert) through the fairytale world that underlay medieval Christianity.

It was, he argues, “a very bad idea”: “Heinrich Heine warned in 1834 that ‘if ever the Cross — the taming talisman — were to fracture, then the wildness of the old warriors will clatter to the surface, their mad berserkers’ rage . . . and the old stone gods will raise themselves up out of the forgotten dust and rub the dust of a millennium from their eyes, and Thor with his giant hammer will at last rise up and smash the Gothic domes.’ In the hands of Richard Wagner, the Nibelungenlied became an anti-Christian manifesto.”

This isn’t ancient history: “The AfD sought to preserve German culture, he told me, against the threat of unlimited immigration. If he were Germany’s education minister, I asked, what would he do for German culture? The question surprised him, and after some thought he offered that he might revive the old German system of classical education.”

If we don’t take the weakness of the cross, we’ll be left with what Rusty Reno calls the “strong gods” of blood and soil.

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